Technology? It’s a piece of cake to these members of a group celebrating its first anniversary in Blackpool. You wouldn’t know it at first sight, but most are severely visually impaired or partially sighted – including their tutor Brian Casey. Simply Synapptic, named after the specialist software for visually impaired users of smartphones and tablets, meets every month at N-Vision Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Society for the Blind. The group next meets at the Low Vision Centre, Bosworth Place, Squires Gate, on November 23.
What started as a support group to help visually impaired people of all ages make the most of specialist technology has become a truly sociable gathering. It’s peer support in the best sense, with all the members mucking in to help each other, and the first timers such as a Bolton man who travels over each month as “there’s nothing like that there”. For those struggling to update apps or navigate the large print – or spoken word – phones and tablets there’s always help.
Some, such as Tom Critchley, Rita Gillett and Sandra Stevenson, are long time clients of N-Vision. Tom, 73, has been a regular at N-Vision with wife Carol for 20 years. He lost his sight to retinal detachment and glaucoma.
“It’s not a total disaster,” he says. “You get on with life – and technology can be a great help.” The workshops are run by Brian, 52, from Fleetwood, now his fourth year as the charity’s Low Vision worker. He’s assisted by wife Beverly, severely visually impaired since birth, who’s a trustee and volunteer at the charity and a social media wizard. Members were more than ‘appy to share a birthday cake celebrating their first anniversary – complete with Simply Synapptic edible icing – presented by Beverly to group founder Jean Wild. Jean, herself severely visually impaired, said: “I knew there was a need for a group such as this to help us use the technology out there, but I never thought it would last this long and do so well.
“It’s great because technology changes all the time. “And, let’s face it, it can seem very off putting to use even when you are sighted!” The charity regularly hosts exhibitions of the latest technological aids – including a big annual show. It also has a permanent display available. Earlier this year Brian became the first European to trial Canadian innovation eSight eyewear – a headset which bypassed the damage to his sight caused by two sports injuries 27 years ago and enabled him to ‘see’ in real time. Brian adds: “In old money we’d be registered blind, but it’s not a term anyone likes because it’s so negative. We are modern visually impaired people who want to use the technology available now.” Call the Low Vision Centre on (01253) 392696.